Serial rapist who preyed on lone women is given 10 life sentences

A serial rapist who stalked suburban women was given 10 life sentences yesterday as it was revealed that he had been a violent, sexual predator since the age of 14.

Petros Anthia's disturbing past was disclosed to the court the day after he dramatically changed his plea four weeks into his trial.

The 35-year-old rapist of Haringey, north London, stared straight ahead as the judge described him as a man beyond reform who should be locked away until he was "physically infirm".

The court heard that the former builder had 21 former convictions for attacks against women, dating back to 1983 and had told police in his homeland of southern Cyprus that he believed himself to be controlled by a "satanic power".

Between January 2003 and April 2004, Anthia preyed on lone women walking down dark, isolated streets in north London and Hertfordshire in the early hours of the morning.

His nine victims ­ aged 19 to 35 - were attacked from behind, punched in the head and throttled to the point of unconsciousness. Of some, he demanded to know if they were "enjoying it".

Three escaped but six endured beatings and rapes after being dragged into secluded spots.

Jailing him for a minimum of 25 years yesterday, Judge John Bevan QC said the victims "all thought they were going to be killed and were all petrified".

"You are beyond reform or correction, you have a string of sex offences, some while wearing a mask...

"Although they have recovered physically, you have caused incalculable harm to your victims and you have shown no remorse."

Detective Inspector Mark Ross, of Hertfordshire Police, said after the verdict: "He has a complete disregard for women and sees them merely as sexual objects to be violent and aggressive towards.

"I have no doubt that if we had not arrested him the attacks would have been even more serious and could have led to murder."

It was an attack in 1999 ­ a year after he moved to Britain ­ which eventually led to Anthia admitting his guilt. The original case against him had collapsed after the traumatised French student refused to return to the UK for a trial. But his DNA was kept on file and it linked him to the first Hertfordshire attack in 2004. Detectives eventually persuaded the French woman, now 32, to give evidence in this case via video link. Her decision to testify led the rapist to change his plea.

On Tuesday, before St Albans Crown Court, Anthia pleaded guilty to 10 charges of rape against six women and three charges of assault on other victims.

Detectives said they had not ruled out the possibility that other women had been victims of Anthia and would investigate any case that arose.

Questions were asked about how a man with Anthia's record was allowed into this country. As a Greek Cypriot he did not need a visa to enter the UK. He was subject only to the usual passport controls ­ under which incoming travellers are not routinely questioned about their criminal background. Soon after arriving in the UK he married Ruth Demetriou, a UK national, and the couple had two daughters ­ now aged 14 and six.

Anthia, a former builder, of Haringey, north London, also received a concurrent four-year term for the assaults. Four other charges, three of assault with intent to commit buggery and one of indecent assault, were left on file.